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An entertaining epic

Posted : 7 years, 2 months ago on 27 March 2011 10:11

Before watching this movie, I thought I would watch it bit by bit during a whole week, maybe in 5 sessions since it was about 5 hours long. Eventually, I watched both movies back-to-back just in one single day! It shows that the duration was definitely not an issue and I was definitely entertained from the start until the end. It may sound strange but while watching it, I thought it was some kind of Asian version of 'The Lord of the Rings'. Especially, when you see the heroes gathering, forming some kind of fellowship and then preparing for the battle which eventually take place in great details and which they eventually win whereas the odds were against them, you have to admit it, it was definitely reminiscent of 'The Lord of The Rings'. To be honest, sometimes, I have to admit that it was a little bit difficult to remember everyone's name but it wasn't really big deal. Anyway, after spending many years working in the US and making usually some rather disappointing flicks, it was very nice to see John Woo back in his homeland and above all, in such a good shape. To conclude, even though it was nothing really mind-blowing, it is a very well made and entertaining epic and I think it is definitely worth a look, especially if you like the genre.

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John Woo's Masterpiece

Posted : 7 years, 2 months ago on 20 March 2011 04:26

Subtlety and restraint are not two words that I usually associate with John Woo. He has made a career out of over the top, overly melodramatic action thrillers that more often than not sink under the weight of their own stylistic pretensions (think Mission:Impossible 2). However, every director has one great epic in them, and this is John Woo's masterpiece.

The movie tackles a story based on the the battle of Red Cliff, largely adapted from the Chinese language epic 'The Romance of the Three Kingdoms', considered to be one of the most influential works of Chinese Literature. The relationship between the story and actual history is much like the relationship of Shakespeare's works to actual history, in a word 'loose'. It relates the conflict between the three warring kingdoms in the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history.

Red Cliff : Part I largely deals with the forming of alliances and preparations before we actually enter the arena of war. The aggressor is the Prime Minister of the Han Kingdom, Cao Cao, who wants to conquer the two most powerful warlords in southern China. The two warlords, formerly enemies, form an alliance to face a common enemy. We meet the protagonists, the generals and leaders of the three armies. It's a leisurely introduction, verging on the dull at times. This is when I started to realise that this wasn't your typical John Woo movie. The characters weren't the typical caricatures that populate John Woo's movies, they come across as real characters. Incredibly noble and heroic characters, but real characters nevertheless.

The battle scenes are shot in great detail, even as the brutality is kept in check. This isn't the Steven Spielberg style of shooting battles, but it isn't quite superficial Hollywood either. They follow a happy middle ground between the two and it works very well, much like it worked for movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The first battle is not the main battle of Red Cliff, just an initial skirmish. It's a 35 minute mini-epic from start to finish, almost in real time on-screen. It sets the tone for the rest of the movie as the action takes a back seat to planning and strategy. In fact, much of both movies is about planning and strategy with the battles as the climatic highlights, not the entire show.

Part I isn't perfect, the pace is slow at the beginning and I was wondering where the movie was going for a while. However, the production values and the acting is excellent throughout. It was almost John Woo was in unfamiliar territory at the start and didn't know how to best go about it. Thankfully, he finds his feet by the half way mark, which sets up things perfectly for the story to take flight in the next part.

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Red Cliff review

Posted : 8 years ago on 21 May 2010 02:36

I watched part I and part II. Most people would greatly enjoy the theatrical version (ok not me.). I absolutely loved Takeshi Kaneshiro as Zhuge Liang, so the more the better. He was also in House of the Flying Daggers. *drool*. So if you like, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragons, Hero, and House of the Flying Daggers then move this to the top of your list.

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Does what a movie should

Posted : 9 years, 3 months ago on 19 February 2009 02:59

This is a big war movie, "Lord of the Rings" style, based on one of the most famous stories from the start of the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history. The tyrannical Cao Cao has convinced the feeble emperor to make him Prime Minister and let him lead an expedition to conquer the independent southland. The movie follows the creation of an alliance between the freedom-loving kingdoms of Wu and Shu and their initial battle with Cao Cao, and focuses on the larger-than-life heroic characters of the leaders of Wu and Shu. The movie ends with the two armies set up across the Yangtze River from each other, ready for the final battle in Red Cliff: II.

No real surprises, but it's good fun. It's an all-star Chinese/HK-movie cast.

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